The Madras College Archive


Former Pupil Biographies

Major Matthew Fontaine Maury Meiklejohn, V.C. (1870 - 1913)

The 'Old Boys Chronicle' in the Madras College Magazine for December 1904 reports:

"The 'Old Boys' of earlier and of later standing are everywhere giving a good account of themselves. Even while it is impossible here to refer to all who are eminent, the names of a few may now be set on record as bringing every credit to their former school .... every Briton knows how another soldier from the Madras College, Captain Meiklejohn, so grandly earned his V.C. in the South African war ..."

Major Matthew Fontaine Maury Meiklejohn V.C.  was born on the 27 November 1870 and died on 4 July 1913. He was a British recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Meiklejohn was the son of Professor John Meiklejohn, of the University of St. Andrews, and was educated at Fettes College. He was 28 years old, and a Captain in the 2nd Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders, British Army during the Second Boer War when the following deed took place at the Battle of Elandslaagte for which he was awarded the VC.


At the Battle of Elandslaagte on the 21st October, 1899, after the main Boer position had been captured, some men of the Gordon Highlanders, when about to assault a kopje in advance, were exposed to a heavy cross-fire and, having lost their leaders, commenced to waver. Seeing this, Captain Meiklejohn rushed to the front and called on the Gordons to follow him. By his conspicuous bravery and fearless example, he rallied the men and led them against the enemy's position, where he fell, desperately wounded in four places.

The award of Victoria Cross was announced in July 1900.

His VC action cost him his arm which was amputated. Despite this, he remained in the army as a staff officer. He was promoted to the substantive rank of Captain of the Gordon Highlanders 22 January 1902, and was seconded as a staff officer posted at Saint Helena. He later achieved the rank of major.

He died on 4 July 1913 following a fall from his horse in Hyde Park, avoiding some children who had walked in front of him. He was given a hero's funeral in Brookwood Cemetery. He is commemorated by a plaque on the wall of the Hyde Park Barracks, London.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen, Scotland.

The 'Old Boys Chronicle' in the Madras College Magazine for New Year 1914 reports:

The late Major Meiklejohn, V.C.
"After a brilliant career in which he displayed courage and capacity of a high order, Major Matthew Fontaine Maury Meiklejohn V.C., died on the 4th of July through being thrown from his horse, which had bolted during an inspection held in Hyde Park on 28th of June, gallantly sacrificing his life to avoid running down some children who were in the way. We extend our sincerest sympathy to the members of his family.

Major Meiklejolm greatly distinguished himself in the Boer War and was awarded the Victoria Cross. In the hard-won battle of Elandslaagte on 21st October 1900, the Captain (as he was then) was hit no fewer than seven times, and it was a miracle that he escaped with his life. Heedless of his injuries, he went on bravely fighting till he received such a serious wound as afterwards necessitated the amputation of his right arm. 'Possibly,' wrote ex-Major Tamplin in the Cape Times, 'the real hero of Elandslaagte will prove to be Captain Meiklejohn, of the Gordon Highlanders. This young officer, one of the 'Dargai boys,' helped the charge in an endeavour to embarrass the Boer flank.' 'Supported by a party of Gordons,' said that Cape paper at the
time, 'Melklejohn waved his sword and cried out to his party who hastily gathered round him. But the Boer ranks were alert, and poured in a deadly fire on the gallant band. Captain Meiklejohn had three bullets through his upper right arm, one through the right forearm, a finger blown away, a bullet through the left thigh, two bullets through his helmet, and a 'snick' in the neck, while his sword and scabbard were literally shot to pieces.' Major Meiklejohn first saw service in the Chitral Campaign in 1895, and in the Afridi-Orakzai rebellion in 1897. When he was Lieutenant in the 1st Gordons he took part in the famous storming of Dargai, and had the honour to be the first British officer to reach the top. In this engagement he was twice slightly wounded. When the Major returned to St. Andrews after he had recovered from his South African injuries, he received a great ovation from the citizens, and a banquet in his honour was held in the Town Hall. Of late Major Meiklejohn was a frequent visitor at St. Andrews, and was a well-known figure on the Links, where, in spite of his having to play with his one hand, he proved himself no mean exponent of the Royal and Ancient game."